Measuring 7.2 on the Richter scale, the earthquake damaged the subsea fibre-optic cables which facilitate communications between the mainland, Taiwan, Hong Kong, the USA, Southeast Asia and Europe.
Millions of people have experienced severe disruption in accessing websites and international dialing facilities are also affected. Mainland service providers fear it will be mid-January before the damage can be fully repaired.
Global Marine vessels, CS Cable Retriever based in the Philippines and CS Wave Mercury from Shanghai mobilized immediately to Taiwan to support the work.
In addition, Global Marine’s JV partner SBSS (SB Submarine Systems) based in Shanghai, made the cableship ship Fu Hai available to carry out repair work in support of the major telco’s affected by the disaster.
“The number of simultaneous cable failures was unprecedented and we made every effort to get Global Marine and our partners ships to the region to quickly start repairing the damage and restoring network facilities to South East Asia,” comments Global Marine’s Asia Director Ian Douglas. “We were particularly pleased that SBSS was able to provide repairs services to key customers even though the contracted maintenance stand-by period had ended.”
“The telcos in the region rely on our ability to address cable faults quickly and efficiently. We are fortunate to have available the Fu Hai which has completed its six months duties in the maintenance but is still available during January to continue carrying out these emergency repairs prior to commencing another commercial project.” Mr. Douglas continues.
Some of the cables are trapped under the seabed and others are tangled, making repairs exceptionally difficult. The ruptures are more than 3300m below sea level well beyond the reach of the Remotely Operated Vehicles which are commonly used in such projects. Instead, the traditional recovery method of using grapnels are being utilised for this operation; grapnels are used to pick up cables from the seabed by being dragged from side to side across the path of the cable until it can be hooked and lifted to the surface for repair on board.
“But this does highlight the vulnerability of our global communications network and the extent to which we rely on it.” said Gabriel Ruhan, CEO of Global Marine. “This was a significant earthquake, and we are glad we had vessels in the area which could so quickly be brought in to assist in the recovery and repair.”